Britain’s Ian Wilkinson, riding for the UK Youth Team owned by former Formula One champion Nigel Mansell made his own sporting history last Sunday when he succeeded in becoming the first rider to win the Rutland – Melton CiCLE Classic twice.
With 160 riders from 22 countries lined up in Oakham town centre for the 183 km race, which included 2012 winner Alexander Blain (France) riding this year for Team Raleigh, and riders of the calibre of Olympic Team pursuit champion Ed Clancy the race looked the most open for years. But, within a few miles a three man group of Mike Northy (Node4-Giordana), three times third place CiCLE Classic finisher Yanto Barker (UK Youth) and ominously New Zealand’s Tom Scully riding for Team Raleigh and protective of Blain’s efforts to win the race twice in two year, took a 30 seconds lead on the opening lap of two of Rutland Water. With a the race route including a detour this year to pass closely by the premises of the Giant Store (Rutland Water) located at Normanton, who along with Schwalbe UK were the two new joint main sponsors of the race, many may have believed the move short lived by the three riders in order to avoid any mishap possible on the route due to this tricky section.
However, when their lead continued to grow a counter attack by eight riders bridged the gap to form a group of eleven leaders who by their return to Oakham to contest the Oakham Wines sponsored ‘Hot spot’ sprint at the Market place, their lead had increased to nearly three and a half minutes. Scully, obviously riding under orders took the sprint ward but meanwhile race officials were concerned about other matters. Fears were raised that the leaders and the race might be stopped in their tracks by the radio communication that a train was due at the level crossing in the town at the same moment that the race reached that point.
With clear comparison with the situation that regularly occurs in Belgian races that the CiCLE Classic looks to emulate in Britain were drawn however, when the fears were averted when discussion between local Police and train personnel resulted in the train being held in the station for a few extra minutes to enable the whole race to pass unimpeded.
As the race then entered the smaller roads north of Oakham the climbing strength of the American Manuel Bello Calixto, riding for the Paraguayan team, Start –Trigon begun to be felt by the leaders as he easily won the first ascent of Cold Overton hill. He later went on to win the second ascent of that hill as well as two ascents of the Burrough-on-the-hill ascent to dominate and win the LifeCiCLE Sports sponsored ‘King of the Bergs’ competition.
Meanwhile the leading group continued to increase their lead to in excess of four minutes despite several of its members being temporarily left behind with punctures on the gravel and potholed roads minor roads and farm tracks around Owston and Somerby that characterise the race. Whilst the strongest such as France’s Eric Berthou also riding for the well drilled Raleigh Team were able to rejoin the leaders after long lone chases, others were left behind to be swallowed by the chasing peleton.
During the first passage of the notorious ‘Somerberg’ special sector the group further punctures took their toll and the leaders were now just eight strong, and this group continued to ride hard and maintain a sizable lead despite frequent counter attacks forming and going clear of the peleton over the remaining one and a half hours of racing. It was this group who headed towards Melton and the final special rough sector at Sawgate Lane, before the breakneck fast descent into Melton centre where the biggest crowd ever gathered for the finis, swollen by the arts festival and St Georges day parades
awaited the riders. But this time rather than finish there and then the riders faced a further 15 km finishing circuit along Thorpe End, Saxby Road, and Stapleford before returning to fight out the final placings. To hold the crowds interest a special sprint award on the first passage of the finish line on Sherrard Street, presented by Grant’s Freehouse at Burrough-on-the-hill was taken by Yanto Barker of the UK Youth team who along with Raleigh had been the main protagonists of the almost race long breakaway.
With everything to play for within the final 15 km loop attack after attack was launched from the remaining six riders, but none were given any leeway and once again the race came down to a final do or die effort down Burton Road and into Sherrard Street . As they rounded the final corner, Ian Bibby (Madison-Genesis) was the front and looked to have the win sewn up, but in the final 200 mts, Wilkinson a wiley and experienced professional with the confidence of his 2009 win in the CiCLe Classic in his mind, timed his effort to perfection to take a well deserved and historic second win in this highlight of the British road racing calendar.
With strength in numbers in the breakaway group, UK Youth also took the honours in the the Melton Building Society sponsored team award competition with their riders placed 1st, 4th and 15th.
Speaking after the race Race Director Colin Clews praised the assistance of the Leicestershire Constabulary in making possible the finishing circuit, a very exciting and valuable innovation to the race end which increased greatly the spectator interest in Melton. “ Over the past few years the Rutland –Melton CiCLE Classic has really come of age, and the quality of the racing and professionalism that we attain each year in our area is the envy of every other single day race in Britain. Its reputation is becoming widely known across several continents and in doing so the area and attractions are also highlighted in a unique way. The common language of sporting excellence”, added Clews.
Without the support of the following organisations and companies it would be impossible to stage a race of this type and at the standard that it deserves. The race organisation are indebted to all those listed and would seek yourselves to in turn support them for the willing contribution made to the continuing success of the CiCLE Classic and its associated events.
• The Giant Store (Rutland Water) Joint title sponsor
• Schwalbe Tyres (UK) Joint title sponsor
• Rutland County Council Associate sponsor
• Rutland Together Oakham town start
• Melton Town Bid Partnership Melton town finish
• Manor Farm Feeds Owston village Hot spots
• Dare2b (Regatta Ltd) Official clothing sponsor
• Rouleur magazine Special sector sponsor
• Tim Norton Motors (Oakham) Official Vehicle sponsor
• Melton Mowbray Building Society Team competition sponsor
• Leics & Rutland Community Games Event partner
• LifeCiCLE Sports & Health King of the Bergs sponsor
• Oakham Wines Oakham Hot spot sponsor
• Newstyle Print and Design Official print & design sponsor
• Onimpex (Bioracer) Winners jersey sponsor
• Ramada Hotel (Grantham) Official hotel partner
• Holiday Inn Hotel (Peterborough) Associate hotel partner
• Duvel Belgian Beer Official hospitality sponsor
• High5 Race nutrition sponsor
• Morrisons Supermarket (Melton) Official water sponsor
• Melton Cheeseboard Quality local cheese for the winner
• Shore Design Winners Trophy
• Leics. & Rutland 4X4 Response Group Mobile race security personnel
• Melton Mowbray RotaryClub Melton town Marshals
• Welland Valley Cycling Club Race Marshals
• Velo Club Rutland Cycling Club Race Marshals
• Union Cycliste Internationale Race registration
• British Cycling Photo finish and race officials
……..and to the untold others too many to mention who give their voluntary time and effort to ensure that the race goes ahead, with particular thanks to Leicestershire Constabulary.
With 34 teams confirmed for the race, this year under new joint sponsorship from the Giant Store (Rutland Water) and Schwalbe Tyres (UK) the race looks wide open, and after the floods and freak weather conditions of last years race everyone is more than ever intent on the race making an unforgettable race and amends for any poor performances in 2012.
(Full race result in Palmares page.